It's a secret where third-year Carlos Villarreal will be on Friday night--at least to his Valentine. Ordering flowers and preparing a holiday card, Villarreal is gearing up for an evening pierced by the romantic arrows of Venus's son.
Villarreal, along with the countless other University students and faculty involved in romantic relationships, joins a slew of student groups that will continue the elementary-school tradition of passing cards and heart-shaped candies in celebration of Valentine's Day.
School-wide festivities began last night with a date auction sponsored by Occam's Razor, and a "Love à la Smart" study break at the art museum.
But while Villarreal prepares for his Friday night excursion to the undisclosed location, he questions the general observance of the holiday.
"How reasonable is it?" he said. "I personally don't like it at all. She cares about it and I want to make her feel special. Not everyone is in a relationship, but for those that are, it's just a reason to be a good guy and take that special person out."
"The strong work ethic at the University often keeps students from unwinding and celebrating holidays like Valentine's Day," Villarreal said.
"Our minds are in other places," he said. "People study on weekends--the work must be done."
Similar to Villarreal, second-year Satya Basu said that students here do not make enough of an effort to maintain social lives. "People should do stuff like this more often or else the University of Chicago could get really depressing, especially in the winter," he said.
Basu, who prepared for the special night by buying champagne and ingredients for chocolate rum fondue, and who has plans for a "nice" dinner downtown and ice skating, takes a less critical approach to his social engagements. When asked why he celebrates Valentine's Day, he responded: "Why not?"
"You don't have to be with a girl to date her on Valentine's Day," he said "It's a perfect opportunity to get to have a date. But my girlfriend will kill me when she reads this."
According to third-year Josh Golden, the apathy some University students hold toward the holiday is the shared at Northwestern, where he previously attended. "It's just a stupid Hallmark holiday. No one cares about it," he said
Despite Golden's criticism, he plans on cooking dinner for his girlfriend for Valentine's day.
"Last year she cooked for me. It went really well until I almost choked to death on a pecan."
"She gave me an aphrodisiac cookbook so this year it's my turn to make dinner," Golden said. "I don't know what I'm going to cook."
Most students who were questioned--including those with grandiose plans for Friday night--did not know the history of Valentine's Day.
"It's a tradition and it celebrates love and affection," said first-year Jeremy Hetzel. "I'm not sure where it really came from. I just do it because its fun."
For those too busy with the responsibility of making reservations for expensive restaurants (Hetzel is taking his sweetheart to Ambria, a swank uptown French eatery), cooking a meal or making secret plans to review the holiday's origins, a brief history lesson seems in order:
Valentine's Day is rooted in the late-winter Roman celebration of Lupercalia, which honored several gods and also paired men and women up as romantic couples until the next year's holiday.
The legend develops that Valentine, in defiance of Emperor Claudius's decree that soldiers remain bachelors, performed weddings, thus condemning himself to death. As Christianity took hold in Rome, Valentine was sainted and the date of his death, February 14, became a holiday to celebrate his romanticism.
Though Valentine's Day began in remembrance of a martyr, to first-year Brian Zwecker, it has degenerated into a tool for businesses to make money. "It's a holiday designed for girls so that guys have to buy them shit."
Zwecker takes issue with the Student Care Center's (SCC) efforts to distribute condoms in the Reynolds club this past Wednesday and Thursday.
"I think all people should wait till they're married, like I'm doing," he said.
Health education specialist Kelley Carameli, who oversees the distribution of all contraceptives for the SCC, said that the school is sensitive to students who choose not to have sex.
At the table, which will also be set up on Tuesday, "abstinence bags" of literature and candy were passed out along with the safe-sex packages.
"Condoms are not just handed out; they have to be picked up," Carameli said. "They are paid for by the student health fee. We want to appeal to that [abstinent] population too, but for those who choose to have sex, we want to [promote] safe sex."
Noting that the SCC offers regular male condoms, latex-free male condoms, dental dams, and female condoms, Carameli stressed that students of any sex and sexual orientations feel comfortable coming to her for contraceptives.
"They're equally loved all around," she said.
To some, the effort to distribute condoms and literature underscores that the students in the University are socially inept and have no use for condoms.
"I've heard more than one person saying "wrong school" when they hand out condoms," said second-year Mickey Passman. "The University of Chicago can't make a big deal of Valentine's Day because students don't know how to interact with people of the opposite sex."